“Working dogs”

Chapter 8: Dec. 12-30, 2003

Topics: Abu Ghraib, Slide Shows, The Abu Ghraib Files, slideshow,

Warning: Photos contain disturbing images of violence, abuse and humiliation. These photos were taken using cameras owned by Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. and Sgt. Ivan Frederick II, as well as a third camera whose owner is not identified by the Criminal Investigation Command (CID). They depict two incidents of detainees being confronted with military dogs, a detainee who has been bitten by a military dog and a detainee receiving medical attention from soldiers for his wounds. The photos also show a detainee who has apparently been shot in the buttocks using nonlethal ammunition. In addition to the detainees, the pictures show Graner; Frederick; Sgt. Michael Smith; Sgt. Santos Cardona; civilian contractor Adel Nakhla; Spc. Sabrina Harman; a soldier the CID identifies as Spc. Strothers; persons the CID identifies only as “Hofecker,” “Richards,” “S. Hubbard” and “Barhouti”; a soldier the CID identifies as Sgt. Cathcart; several soldiers the CID identifies as unknown; and at least one person the CID identifies as a member of the Iraqi police.

Dogs arrived at Abu Ghraib on Nov. 20, 2003, and were used to abuse detainees just a few days later, according to Army reports. The use of dogs had been recommended two months earlier by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the U.S. prison facility at Guantánamo Bay, as part of his plan to improve interrogation in Iraq, according to a Department of Defense investigation led by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. Miller brought with him Guantánamo Bay interrogation guidelines and 200 pages of operating procedures that he used in Cuba, according to a statement Miller made to defense attorneys on Aug. 21, 2004. Miller later told Army investigators that he never intended for the dogs to be used during interrogations. But soldiers and officers on the ground in Iraq say they received a different message.

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who became commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib in November 2003, said Miller told him military working dogs were effective in “setting the atmosphere for interrogations,” according to a report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay. Then, in a Sept. 14 memo approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, interrogators were authorized to use dogs in interrogations under controlled circumstances. On Oct. 12, Sanchez issued another, more narrow set of guidelines allowing for the selective use of muzzled dogs during interrogations.



The idea of using dogs in interrogations was not an aberration. At least two other military memos referenced exploiting many Arabs’ known fear of dogs, including an Oct. 11, 2002, review of potential interrogation tactics for Guantánamo Bay, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld drew from for his Dec. 2, 2002, memo authorizing harsh tactics at that prison.

“The use of dogs in interrogations to ‘fear up’ detainees was generally unquestioned and stems in part from the interrogation techniques and counter-resistance policy,” the Fay report concluded.

The trainers from five dog teams that arrived at Abu Ghraib did not receive proper instruction on the intended use of the dogs, the Schlesinger report said. “Navy dog handlers indicated they had not previously worked in a prison environment,” the report said. One Navy handler explained to investigators that “he had not received an orientation on what was expected from his canine unit nor what was authorized or not authorized at the compound,” the Schlesinger report said. “He further stated he had never received instruction on the use of force in the compound.”

Most of the photographs in this set were taken on the night of Dec. 12, during a dog bite incident with a detainee. In his April 2005 statement to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, Graner said he had discovered that a sheet of plywood was missing from the window in the cell of the detainee named M—–, whom Graner called “the Iranian.” Graner said he decided that he needed to search the cell to make sure that no contraband or weapons had been smuggled to the detainee through the open window. He enlisted the help of Frederick and two dog handlers, Sgt. Michael Smith and Sgt. Santos Cardona. Other soldiers came down to watch. “You know, it’s a big deal having a canine there,” Graner said.

According to Graner’s account, he opened the cell and ordered M—– down on the ground. “He had been petrified,” Graner said of the detainee. “I went to go search his cell, and he bolted towards the door.” The detainee began punching and kicking him, Graner claims.

At least one of the dog handlers released his dog on the man, and the detainee was bitten several times in the legs. Graner said pictures were taken so that one of the dog handlers could use them in a report about the incident.

On Jan. 27, 2004, Smith gave a statement to the CID that also described the detainee attacking Graner. Smith said that Cardona released his dog twice on the detainee in defense of Graner. “Since the prisoner was attacking an MP [military police], he [Cardona] allowed his dog to go in and bite the detainee,” said Smith.

The Fay report concluded that this incident resulted from military police “harassment and amusement.” Both Smith and Cardona are scheduled to go on trial by summer 2006 on charges of misusing their dogs at Abu Ghraib.

A second set of images depicts a dog menacing a terrified Syrian detainee, named A—–, in an orange jumpsuit. The detainee cowers against a wall while a leashed dog barks at him from a few feet away. According to the Fay report, this detainee was considered a “high value” target by military intelligence. Fay said that the detainee had been transported to Abu Ghraib from a Navy ship, and was suspected of being involved with al-Qaida. The Fay report found that it was “highly plausible” that this abuse was directed by a contract interrogator from CACI International, who was later identified by the Associated Press as Steven Stefanowicz.

Though both the Fay and Taguba reports accused Stefanowicz of leading abuse at Abu Ghraib, the former interrogator has not been criminally charged.

“Mr. Stefanowicz’s conduct throughout was always done with respect to the policies and orders in effect,” his lawyer, Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., told Salon.

“None of the individuals mentioned in any of the various reports and investigations are currently employed by CACI. Beyond that, CACI does not comment on personnel matters,” a CACI spokesperson told Salon in an e-mail. “CACI has cooperated fully with the U.S. Army and other organizations of the U.S. government in all its inquiries and investigations and will continue to do so.”

Read Chapter 9: Nov. 4-Dec. 2, 2003 — “Mentally deranged”

View the slide show

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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